Hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of their winter break. Hope you’re all able to take some time before the year wraps up to reflect on the past 365 days and spend some time with those you care about.
With the high school football season officially wrapped up with Chandler’s big win in the GEICO Bowl – congrats to the Wolves – I got to thinking about what I would want to see in the next few years when it comes to Arizona high school football. A holiday wish-list of sorts. I’m sure I can think of others but here are a few that were on the front of my mind this weekend:
I want to see Chandler and Centennial play
Chandler and Centennial have been giants in high school football the past few years. Both teams have won three state championships in the last four years. They both have distinct styles, stick to what they do, and challenge opponents to stop them (those opponents probably don’t). Neither program shies away from playing big-time programs in the state or nationally. This year, Chandler went up against IMG and Miami Northwestern in the GEICO Bowl and competed in both games. Centennial shut out St. Thomas Aquinas earlier this year. Seeing these two high school football heavyweights go head-to-head would be a really, really fun.
I want to see Saguaro and Chaparral to play
Saguaro and Chaparral was one of the most heated rivalries in the state. Since splitting divisions and a few emotionally charged games, the Sabercats and Firebirds haven’t played since 2014. It’s time to bring these teams back together in the next two years. Saguaro has been the king of Scottsdale for the last half-decade. They’ve put countless players into big-time college programs and Jason Mohns has some incredible talent coming up the ranks for the coming years.
The Firebirds will have one of its best rosters gain experience over the next few years with sophomores Jack Miller and Tommy Christakos, two national level recruits, leading the way and about 60% of their starters being class of 2020 guys this season.
Seeing a Christakos-Kelee Ringo matchup would be pretty awesome, and I think it’s time to bring back the rivalry.
I want to see how the next portion of this recruiting class plays out
The early signing day was an experiment, and no one really knew how it would go. Overall, I think the consensus was it was a success with minimal surprises. Now, we shift our focus to those who are still going through their recruitment, and I’m looking forward to seeing who lands where. Solomon Enis and Gunner Romney, who is a BYU commit but is also considering ASU, are two national level receivers that could be go-to guys at the next level. Both Zidane Thomas and Brock Purdy, two of the most impressive players I saw this year, have seen their recruitments pick up in recent weeks. Kenny Churchwell is a guy I think has not gotten the credit he’s deserved for what he’s accomplished the past few years. These are just a few guys who will be making impacts on Saturdays.
I want a big Tucson school to win a state championship
So no matter what fan affiliation you may have, you felt a little bit of Arizona pride when you heard Centennial beat Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas or when Chandler dismantles Miami Northwestern in the Geico Bowl, right? I think it’s less and less of a secret now that Arizona is a premier football state. These guys can compete nationwide. Not just city-wide but state-wide. To do that, Tucson needs to be in that equation. With multiple big-time contenders like Cienega, Salpointe Catholic as well as Marana and Ironwood Ridge who have been consistently good programs. But Cienega head football coach Pat Nugent told me and Haley Stesiak on the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show that if Tucson wants respect, they will need state championships.
I want the entire state to compete, and not just the Greater Phoenix area. Salpointe Catholic was a game away from a title. Cienega was a Notre Dame Prep comeback away from playing in the 5A title game as well. Both of these divisions are tough to navigate, but both teams have some special players returning to their rosters in the coming year. If a state title came to Tucson, it would further solidify the state as a football state and could put new college program’s focus on the area as well.
Plus, those haters get really quiet when you have a trophy in your ear…
I want to see more Arizona guys in the national spotlight
The future of Arizona high school football is very bright. The classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021 already have some nation-level recruits. Pinnacle quarterback Spencer Rattler and Notre Dame prep running back Jake Smith have been invited to the 2019 Under Armour All-American game (Rattler has already committed). Arizona had three Arizona representatives at The Opening this year when many national analysts considered Arizona as a “light” class in 2018. Then Tyler Shough, Gunner Romney and Solomon Enis came in and showed everyone what Arizona is all about. I want to see more of these guys in the state go to competitions like The Opening or All-American Bowls to show Arizona should be in that conversation as a top football state. And I think the rosters are equipped around the state to do exactly that.